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Sep 042017
 

(NC) Although we may contemplate it from time to time, most of us don’t think seriously about preparing a will. But it may be the most important document you will ever write, and there’s no time like the present to get it done and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with it. Here are a few guidelines:

Should I consult a lawyer? Some people try to save money by drafting a will on their own. While completing a ready-made will that can be purchased for a few dollars may seem appealing, it can end up costing more money for the people you wished to benefit with your estate.

The cost of having a professionally-drafted will is far less than most people realize. You can also save money by making sure you are organized and ready before seeing the lawyer by creating a record of your important documents and the names of your immediate family, executor and beneficiaries. The less time you spend with the lawyer, the lower your cost will be.

What will happen if I don’t have a will? If you don’t have a will, the court appoints an administrator to manage your estate. Provincial legislation will determine who your beneficiaries will be. This means some of the bequests you had always intended to make, such as to your church, your favourite health charity or organizations like Amnesty International that you supported in your lifetime, would be ignored.

What is an executor? An executor is the person you choose who will be responsible for using your assets as needed to pay any outstanding debts and file a final income tax return. Once all the financial obligations have been met and a clearance certificate from the Canada Revenue Agency has been obtained, the executor can then distribute the remainder of your assets according to your wishes.

Who can be an executor? Any adult can be an executor, including one or more of the following: your spouse, a family member, a friend, a trust company or a lawyer. The important thing is to choose someone who is both capable and willing to take on the responsibility of handling your estate.

A free information package on wills can be received by writing to Amnesty International, 312 Laurier Ave E, #315, Ottawa ON, K1N 1H9.

www.newscanada.com

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Aug 072017
 

(NC) Today, many homeowners are downsizing not just for the cost savings, but to free up time and money to lead a more exciting and colourful life. If you’re not ready to squeeze into a condo just yet, then a land lease may be an attractive option for you.

In a land lease community, homeowners own the house but lease the land it is situated on. Some perks include lower monthly housing expenses, home maintenance services like snow shovelling and mail collection, and home watch security. For those looking to stay active, there are a variety of other benefits as well.

Exercise and wellness. Many communities have facilities such as indoor and outdoor pools, fitness centers, organized fitness classes, as well as walking and biking paths. Homeowners in these communities often form groups, clubs or classes to enjoy physical activities together, making it easy to lead an active and healthy lifestyle.

Social family. The land lease model of individual homes in walkable neighbourhoods fosters a true sense of community and social connectivity. Many communities have clubs or residents’ associations that organize and facilitate dinners, dances, golf tournaments and more to encourage friendships and a thriving social life.

Opportunity to travel. Freeing up cash tied up in your existing home means you’ll now have the financial freedom to pursue your dreams. Finally afford the snowbird lifestyle you’ve been pining after, or that annual cruise you’ve been wanting to build into your travel schedule.

Entertaining guests. With a land lease, you’re able to enjoy the advantages of your own home without any of the drawbacks. For example, Parkbridge Lifestyle Communities offer smaller-styled, quality homes with well-designed floor plans that are easily adaptable to individual tastes and have enough room for guests and family visitors. Homeowners also have their own private outdoor spaces for gardening, entertaining and recreation.

Find more information at www.parkbridge.com.

www.newscanada.com

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Jul 262017
 

(NC) Everyday, technology is getting better at saving homeowners time, energy and money. In recent years, appliances of all brands have set their sights on pushing the limits of development and innovation. What used only to exist in futuristic films can now be found in your local Home Depot. Here are a few recent insights into what’s new in appliances.

Flexibility. Imagine owning a washer that can run two separate loads at once, or a dryer that lets you dry delicates and everyday garments at the same time. Newly developed technology brings this dream to life, and even include Wi-Fi connectivity so that you can receive alerts, start, stop and monitor cycles remotely.

Saving time. Some appliances have smart home capabilities so busy professionals can monitor their kitchens via their phone or laptops. This means you can now purchase high-tech ovens, dishwashers and fridges that are equipped with cameras, allowing you to check on your roast from the bedroom or draft a shopping list from the supermarket.

Saving money. Have you ever been hungry and indecisive, letting all the cool air out while you ponder in front of an open refrigerator door? LG brings state-of-the-art technology to their new door-in-door fridge design, which provides easy access to drinks and snacks without opening the full fridge door. It’s almost like magic — simply knock twice on the glass to illuminate the contents within.

Simplified design. As the heart of the home, the kitchen fills an increasing number of functions including cooking, socializing and dining. Designers are finding new ways to embed intelligent technology into countertop surfaces that help keep the space clean and uncluttered. Homeowners now have the option to integrate wireless charging hotspots directly into hard surfaces like Corian countertops, which allows for embedded tech. So, when you get home after a long day at work, simply place your smartphone on the designated counter area and juice up that battery while you get dinner started.

www.newscanada.com

Jul 202017
 

(BPT) – Retirement is the time in your life when you can throw off the shackles of your daily responsibilities and truly enjoy the fruits of everything you spent years working toward. It’s an empowering feeling and you’ve earned it. You’ve planned and you’ve saved, but now that you’re here, don’t make the mistake of believing your financial planning is over.

In fact, in some ways, it has only begun.

Continuing to support your financial strength in retirement

On the day you enter retirement, your financial focus shifts, but its importance doesn’t diminish. As a retiree, taking an annual review of your finances is more important than ever. You deserve to live the retirement you want. To be sure your finances are up to the task, here are a few specific items to review in your annual post-retirement financial checkup.

1. Life expectancy

When you first created your retirement plan, you likely discussed an end-of-life age with your adviser that you could use as a benchmark and plan toward. Now it’s time to revisit that age again and take an objective look in light of your overall health and any existing conditions you may have. And don’t be surprised if you find out you’re poised to live far longer than you expected all those years ago. It’s great news, but it also means you must adjust your finances accordingly.

2. Life insurance

Look at your life insurance policy. You should take the time to determine if it is still needed or affordable now that you’ve entered retirement. As you review your life insurance policy, you may determine you don’t need it anymore because your children are no longer dependent on you and you have minimal outstanding debts. You may also find that the premiums have increased in recent years and the policy is too costly to maintain. If this is the case, you may want to sell it. It’s one less financial burden you need to worry about, and the influx of additional cash will be a welcome surprise.

It’s important to remember that your life insurance policy is your own personal property and you have the right to sell it, just as you would any other financial assets or physical possession. The sale of your policy to a third-party investor is known as a life settlement transaction, and selling the policy could bring you as much as seven times the amount you would earn for surrendering it. Typical candidates for a life settlement transaction are age 70 or older with a policy of $100,000 or more, according to the Life Insurance Settlement Association (LISA).

3. Asset allocation

During your working years, you probably reviewed your assets several times, and you may have even done some rebalancing to ensure you had the right mix of bonds, stocks and cash in your financial portfolio. But this practice doesn’t end simply because you’ve entered retirement. Look at your assets and take the opportunity to rebalance — just as you did during your working years — to ensure your money is meeting both your short-term needs and your long-term goals.

4. Home equity

Your home is often your most valuable asset. If you own the home where you live, take a moment to assess the amount of equity you have tied up in it. This may be the perfect time to downsize. You could also consider a reverse mortgage, which would allow you to convert some of the equity in your home into cash you could use for other needs. The money you acquire through a reverse mortgage or through the sale of your home via downsizing could then be used to invest in a fixed-income investment — such as annuities or bonds — that will provide ongoing income.

Enjoy retirement on your terms

Your working years may have ended, but your financial management is ongoing. Whether you manage your money yourself or you work with a financial adviser, take charge of your retirement by revisiting your assets and your options. Remember, you’ve worked hard for your retirement, and with a few small changes along the way, you have the ability to make it even greater.

To learn more about life settlements, how they work and whether you’re eligible, call 888-521-8223 or visit the LISA’s website at www.lisa.org.

Jul 132017
 

(NC) Through the touch of a button and the click of a mouse, we can now make countless decisions and transactions in the privacy of our own homes without speaking to anyone. However, nothing quite replaces a relationship with a professional who knows more about a product or service than you do. In a recent survey, over half of Canadians indicated that they do not have a relationship with key professionals. Take a look at how these people can help you.

Lawyer. Useful for more than just suing somebody, lawyers can help you to prepare a will, purchase property, or set up a family trust.

Insurance Advisors. Chartered Insurance Professionals (CIPs) can help you figure out the small print in your home insurance policy to make sure you’re protected against floods, fires and other disasters; yet only 26 per cent of Canadians have a relationship with a CIP. They can give you the peace of mind that should the unexpected occur, you’ll be covered and supported.

Bankers. Online banking has eliminated the need for a personal banking relationship for most people. But working with a trusted banker can be helpful when applying for a loan or mortgage. Bankers can explain in simple terms the ins and outs of interest and other conditions of the loans, as well as answer all your questions on the spot.

Accountant. Tax season happens once a year, but 71 per cent of respondents indicated they don’t have a professional relationship with an accountant. Accountants can help you ensure you are filing your taxes correctly, and haven’t missed any boxes or claims.

Financial Advisor. These money experts are the professionals with whom most respondents said they have a relationship. They can assist in investments, business advice, and planning for your kids’ education or your retirement.

Find more information at beassured.ca.

www.newscanada.com

Jul 062017
 

(NC) No matter what the size of your estate, every adult should have a will, say specialists in this field. Without one, you risk leaving the distribution decisions to an impersonal formula, with the government writing the terms.

A valid will ensures that your property will be dealt with according to your wishes and with a minimum of complications and expense for your estate. Without a will, your spouse may not receive as much as you would wish, your heirs will receive fixed percentages, regardless of their needs, and a court appointed administrator will handle your affairs. In making a will, it is important to give careful thought to what persons, needs or organizations you would like to benefit. It is best to consult a lawyer or notary to ensure your will is properly drawn up. This is much less expensive than most people imagine.

Here are 10 reasons for drafting a will:

  1. It’s your property: A will guarantees that your assets will be distributed according to your wishes.

  2. Children/Grandchildren: A will provides for the care of any children who are minors, enabling you to choose a guardian. Should both parents die, it assures the children do not become a ward of the Court.

  3. Speedy settlement of affairs: Without a will, lengthy court delays could create undue hardship for your family.

  4. Estate planning: When skillfully drafted, a will allows you to incorporate tax-saving measures and avoid unnecessary taxes, resulting in increased funds for your beneficiaries.

  5. Simplified distribution of your estate: By providing a blueprint and a list of directions, families will not have to guess about what you wanted.

  6. Peace of mind: A certain peace of mind comes from knowing that you’ve drafted a will that sets out your true intentions.

  7. Questions of capacity: If a person loses mental capacity, it’s not legally possible to write a will.

  8. Supporting your favourite causes: A will assures that you can continue to help organizations you have believed in during your lifetime, such as a health, education or sports charity, or an human rights organization like Amnesty International.

  9. Relieving any burden on your family: Reviewing the contents and nature of your estate and making known your decisions ahead of time for its disposition makes it easier on all family members.

  10. Ability to be creative: There are relatively few rules that limit a testator’s (person who writes a will) ability to make creative, thoughtful dispositions of property.

Write for a free information package on wills and bequests to Amnesty International, 312 Laurier Avenue East, #315, Ottawa, Ontario K1N 1H9.

www.newscanada.com

Jul 032017
 

(NC) If someone were to look at your bank statement, what would they learn about you? Do you eat out often? What about emotional spending or group purchases? Taking a closer look at your spending habits can be eye-opening, and it can also help you rethink your purchasing priorities. Here’s how to decode what your bank statement signifies:

What your priorities are. If most of your monthly expenses go to organic groceries, then you likely value healthy eating. If what matters most to you is going out with friends, then your bank statement will reflect that. Make sure you are spending your money on what’s important to you.

How you value things. As a consumer, you always have the choice to put something back on the shelf because you feel it’s not worth the price. But when you buy something, you are basically dictating its worth. Looking back at your bank statement, was everything you purchased worth what you spent?

How you’re feeling. Did you resort to retail therapy last month? In moderation, emotional spending can be healing. But be careful as these expenses can add up. Try leaving your credit card at home and consider using your debit card instead. By using the money you already have, it’s easier to track your spending in real time.

How organized you are. Do you hate the hassle of withdrawing cash or writing a cheque? Do you prefer to pay for rent or split a group gift purchase through your online banking? Interac e-Transfer is a safe, efficient payment solution and is a great option for keeping track of your expenses. Additional features rolling out soon, like Request Money and Autodeposit, will make your life even easier.

Learn more at www.interac.ca.

www.newscanada.com

Jun 252017
 

(NC) The majority of us seem to agree that not only is insurance important, but so is seeking professional advice about our insurance needs. The problem is, relatively few Canadians actually have a relationship with an insurance professional who might give them that all-important counsel.

In a recent Leger national public opinion survey, 84 per cent of respondents believe it’s important or very important to secure professional advice about insurance for their home, car or business. Interestingly, women are significantly more likely than men to believe this. We consider receiving professional advice is more important about insurance than it is about banking, loans, mortgages and tax preparation.

The survey also revealed that the vast majority of Canadians would have more confidence in advice from an educated insurance advisor. A Chartered Insurance Professional (CIP), has earned the benchmark of professional insurance designations. The research also showed a gap between how important Canadians consider car, home and business insurance to be, and respondents’ respective levels of knowledge about each. For instance, while 96 per cent of respondents consider home insurance to be important, only 70 per cent consider themselves knowledgeable about it.

Finally, despite Canadians’ strong belief in the importance of insurance and the need for professional advice on insurance, and high confidence in insurance professionals with the CIP designation, still nearly three quarters of respondents have no professional insurance advisor. These survey results reveal a gap that needs to be bridged. In particular, they suggest that we need to seek out experienced insurance professionals for advice on car, home and business insurance.

Learn more about the survey results and the CIP designation at beassured.ca.

www.newscanada.com

Jun 202017
 

(NC) A home equity line of credit can improve your monthly cash flow by consolidating higher-interest debt or it can help increase your home’s value by financing renovations. But this line of credit requires discipline to avoid overborrowing against your home equity. Consider these strategies to protect your long-term financial security.

  1. Establish a repayment plan. One option is to set aside a portion of your home equity line of credit in a sub-account with a fixed-term repayment schedule.

  2. Pay more than just the monthly interest. You can usually pay down any amount of the money you owe at any time without an extra fee.

  3. Establish a clear plan. This includes making a realistic budget for any home renovation projects you are funding.

  4. Create an emergency savings fund. Using a home equity line of credit for an unexpected circumstance like job loss carries risks. You may find yourself in a debt spiral if you borrow money to cover your monthly bills for an extended period of time.

  5. Avoid further debt. It can be a smart decision to use a home equity line of credit to consolidate higher-interest debt. But if your spending habits are the cause of this existing debt, follow a budget and avoid the temptation to continually borrow against your home’s equity.

  6. Negotiate a lower credit limit. Lenders may approve you for a higher limit than you need, making it tempting to spend over your intentions and means.

  7. Shop around. Home equity line of credit interest rates vary from one bank to another.

As with any financial product, review your terms and conditions carefully and ask your financial institution questions about anything you don’t understand.

www.newscanada.com

Jun 172017
 

(NC) You’ve saved up a 20 per cent down payment and are eager to get into the real estate market. For the remaining amount, it’s likely your bank will offer you a readvanceable mortgage. But should you take it?

This popular product, marketed under different names from one bank to another, combines term mortgages with home equity lines of credit. Like a credit card, the amount of money available in your line of credit decreases as you borrow and increases as you pay it back. Your credit limit may also increase automatically as you pay down your mortgage. Some lenders bundle other financial products like car loans or credit cards together under a readvanceable mortgage, typically at an attractive interest rate.

At first glance, this may seem appealing. But keep in mind any applicable fees and the risks of tying different credit products together before signing on the dotted line.

Readvanceable mortgages make it more complicated and expensive to switch lenders to get a better interest rate when your mortgage is up for renewal. You may need to repay all credit products tied together under the readvanceable mortgage. And because it’s secured by a collateral charge against your home, there are additional legal fees you wouldn’t incur when moving a traditional mortgage.

“Lenders can demand that you repay your home equity line of credit, lower your credit limit or increase your interest rate at any time,” cautions Lucie Tedesco, commissioner of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. “This would impact all credit products bundled together in your readvanceable mortgage.”

Remember that a home equity line of credit is secured using your home as collateral — meaning if you can’t pay back the money you owe, your lender can take possession of it.

Find more information online at canada.ca/money.

www.newscanada.com

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